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Another Day in the Country

Finding small pleasures

© Another Day in the Country

When my library said it was partially open for business and offered to put books outside the door for patrons, I was thrilled. Then I went online, attempting to choose the limit of five books, and found myself stuck!

My favorite thing to do at the library is to head straight for the new-book section and go down the line, reading authors and titles, until something grabs me. Then I pull a book off the shelf, open it to a random page and read half a page. If the paragraph passes muster, I add the book to the pile that I’m going to check out. I rarely get less than five books. 

It truly was a crisis time — having trouble finding anything online and not being able to walk up to the new-book shelf in person. So I called the library and said to the person answering the phone, “I’d like you to do me a favor and go to the new-books shelf and just pick out five books and put them in a bag for me.”

I went up to a table in the lobby later in the day, saw a bag with my name on it, and gleefully took it home.

I didn’t even pause to look inside the bag. I was so excited. It was like Christmas or my birthday! This was going to be so much fun to have new books to read.

Perhaps, as you read these words, you’re wondering at the silliness of having someone else, a virtual stranger, pick out books for you to read.

Well, my friend, I was desperate.

As it turned out, four of the five books were immediate rejects when I actually got home and spilled the contents of the magic bag I’d received. I laughed out loud at my audacity asking weekend help at the library, often teenagers, to pick out reading material for this “much older” lady.

I’d received a book of science fiction and two romance novels.

Neither genre appeals to me. I’d asked for one nonfiction book, and they’d sent a book on flower arranging. That was actually quite a good guess, mostly pictures, not long on text.

The next time I called and asked for books, my librarian friend, Jane, answered the phone. It was a weekday, and she was at work. I was thrilled to hear her voice.

“Jane,” I said, “Will you pick out five books for me to pick up in the lobby?”

Jane has been watching me check out books for several years. Sometimes we discuss the books I’m checking out. Sometimes she’s read them. Sometimes they were just on her to-do list and she’d ask for my critique. I loved talking to Jane at the library.

When my mystery bag of books appeared in the lobby this time, I couldn’t wait to see what I’d received. Jane did well! I read four of the five books she found.

It was a great day when I discovered we could actually go inside the building. I’d been waiting for months to see what was on the new-books shelf. It was almost empty! Books were opened and spread out on the shelf to make it appear like there was something available.

No new books!

COVID-19 had infected the publishing business as well as clogging up the shipping business. Getting new books to the library was not a priority.

I had to go looking for much-loved authors in the regular archives, hoping to find something I hadn’t already read. That also was the day I found out Jane was retiring.

This week, they had a drive-by retirement party for Jane on the library’s front lawn. People drove by, honked their horns and waved. Some parked and came over to chat at a respectful distance, masks in place. Some brought flowers. Someone had brought a jar of homemade salsa. Lots of folks brought cards. My chickens laid two dozen eggs for her, and I delivered them.

All of us who frequent the Abilene library will miss Jane. She knew our names and always offered a friendly smile. She also smelled good!

When I first started coming to this particular library, I noticed a fragrance in the air. It wasn’t cleaning supplies or air freshener — which I hate. It wasn’t a strong smell like perfume. It had an earthy, mysterious odor, reminding me of incense.

One day I got brave enough to ask Jane, “There’s something I can smell when I come in the door — a soft fragrance that I just love. Do you know what I’m talking about? Can you smell it?”

Jane chuckled, acted a little embarrassed, and then quietly said, “It’s probably me. My daughter came in one day and said she could smell my Patchouli oil perfume when she came in the door.”

Mystery solved. Jane told me the import shop where she found this perfume, and I went hunting for it. However, it didn’t smell the same with my skin chemistry.

No one came up to me asking, “What is that wonderful fragrance in the air?”

“I wondered if you’d come clear from Ramona for this drive-by party,” Jane said to me. “I thought about wearing Patchouli!”

Her particular laugh, her smile, her style of interacting with all of us who came by her desk to check out books, like the perfume she often wore, will be missed in the Abilene library — on another day in the country.

Last modified July 1, 2020

 

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